It’s truly remarkable the level of support Nathan Buckley enjoys within the media landscape.
While new coaches without the heralded playing careers like David Teague and Ben Rutten have been rinsed through the media cycle, Buckley continues to escape any real scrutiny.
To paraphrase Tony Jones yesterday on the Sunday Footy Show, he put it to the panel to let him go beyond this year because who will do a better job?
As the panel agreed only Matthew Lloyd had the gumption to ask why on earth Buckley should get a reprieve?
Surely there are a plethora of assistants out there who are worth a shot, having done excellent apprenticeships at rival clubs?
It remains fascinating and rage-inducing for Collingwood members why no one is putting the hard questions to Buckley about his long-term failure as the Collingwood coach.
Following two grand finals and a premiership under Mick Malthouse, Buckley was handed the keys to a Ferrari and would surely have been the envy of every assistant coach in the land. With an incredible list to choose from and an amazing level of support and financial backing, Buckley proceeded to dismantle a once-great team.
From 2012 to 2017, he took the team steadily down the ladder, progressively getting worse every season.
The 2018 season was the outlier. From outside the eight, Buckley took the team to within a kick of a premiership and had a sensational year. Many fell over themselves in praising Buckley and fawning over his changed coaching style. While I’m not suggesting Buckley didn’t have a terrific year in the coaches’ box, he was absolutely not on his own.
Closer inspection reveals that Justin Longmuir should have been accepting many of the plaudits as a key assistant and someone rightly recognised as being the brain behind the Magpies’ defensive set-up and drive into attack during 2018. It is no coincidence that once he was poached by Fremantle, the performances began to again steadily decline under Buckley, Brenton Sanderson and Robert Harvey.
In 2019 and 2020 they were ousted from the finals earlier than expected, or to be generous, met expectations without exceeding them. As we know this season is now an unmitigated disaster.
That means that over his decade-long tenure, Nathan Buckley has only managed to outperform expectations in a single season. That is an abysmal record and no other coach in the league over that decade would have kept their job.
Outside of the coaches’ box failures Buckley has to take some responsibility for a number of club issues including the Adam Treloar trade debacle. While the back office rightly has taken the heat for being unable to complete a basic profit-and-loss spreadsheet, there were any number of players who could have been moved instead of Treloar and the way Buckley handled the situation was appalling.
Buckley incorrectly identified Treloar as expendable and while he continues to be obsessed in post-match interviews about “inside pressure” and “winning the ball at the coalface”, clubs have moved past this and now recognise leg speed and metres gained as keys to success.
Buckley failed to see Treloar’s worth and is paying handsomely as Collingwood’s number one ball mover was traded for a packet of peanuts and the Pies must now continue to pay Treloar until 2024.
Again, while the salary cap was not his doing, the manner in which Treloar left the club and how it has turned Collingwood’s midfield into a snail brigade certainly is.
This is before even doing a deep dive into what exactly the senior coach knew about the treatment of Heritier Lumumba and how it led to the implosion of the president’s tenure and the moral fibre of the club being questioned.
Buckley is also responsible for his coaching staff and his decision to hire his bestie in Brenton Sanderson as his senior assistant smacks of the boys-club mentality.
No one in the media appears brave enough to question how many genuinely hard conversations the two have and how often Buckley is challenged by his assistants. Sanderson is another with a horrendous senior coaching record and appears to be the ultimate yes man.
Clearly the club needs to undertake an entire rebuild.
Anyone on the list under the age of 23 must be given a chance to perform. Anyone over 28 (outside of Scott Pendlebury) must be reviewed to determine what value they bring by staying and could be moved on unless they are on a veteran’s minimum.
I was laughed at by fellow Magpies enthusiasts when I suggested it was time to cash in our chips for Jordan De Goey at the end of 2019 for a couple of strong draft picks. Now you’d be lucky to get a single pick in the top 25 given his all hype, no substance performances following the 2018 campaign and pending court case.
Even still, De Goey, Steele Sidebottom, Jack Crisp, Jeremy Howe and Brayden Maynard are players with currency other clubs may part with picks for.
Obviously, the club has completely hamstrung itself by giving Brodie Grundy the better part of a decade to destroy the salary cap. His performances continue to be worth a quarter of what he is being paid.
Whether they can find a suitor to salary dump his bloated contract on will mean another Treloar scenario whereby a give-away of picks or partially paying his salary will need to occur. Oh, what glorious times us Collingwood members live in, having Ned Guy at the helm of our recruiting!
Given the aforementioned track record, how on earth can any argument about Buckley deserving another contract stack up?
In recent times the best example of someone being given this long without the ultimate success would be the decade Neale Daniher spent at Melbourne and the contrasts could not be more different.
Daniher had to work on a shoestring budget, constantly pushing the proverbial uphill, while Buckley has been afforded every opportunity and has been given every chance to succeed.
Buckley is the last person I want in charge of this rebuild and new footy boss Graham Wright needs to take a broom to both the coaching and list management departments to firstly win back the support of the members and see any discernible change at the club.
While it might shock the footy media, if another coach was given a grand final side and a decade in which to coach, they might be able to do a little better, perhaps even win a premiership.